"On six days a woman will work to fulfill odd photo challenges and on the seventh day she shall rest."
That's roughly it, isn't it? But I ignored the dictates of Scripture and asked to be given a seventh challenge day. Ignoring Scripture is nothing new for me of course and my heathenism had descended into new levels of evil by the end of the day. I attended a writing group based around tarot cards. During the evening we were all dealt four cards as seeds for a story. My four cards were as follows:
Card fifteen : The Devil
Card six : The Lovers
The six of pentacles
The six of wands
That's right. I had been dealt this:
The Devil, 6 6 6
Perhaps it could only be me for whom the rules of probability would lead to such a result.
The probability of drawing the devil first followed by three sixes is 0.000175 percent. One chance in every 570 thousand. I won't draw any conclusions from this happy stroke of fortune. Sometimes probability plays games which lead to more smiles than they do to meaning.
Interestingly - for another coincidence of probability - when I drew three cards from another pack earlier that evening, the second card had also been the lovers. It's just chance. The way we find patterns in randomness.
We had just a few moments to begin to find some story arising from the cards. It's not a radical idea. You can now buy story dice. Roll the dice, look at the symbols, make a story. They're a good idea and Blob still wants me to write a story based on the dice he rolled at Greenbelt. Just a few minutes and my devil character - not some literal Satan - had gained a motivation enough to set a story in motion. And then we had a few minutes - no more than five - in which to think some more or to free write from the cards. So I wrote:
It had all fallen apart again. He had run into his future and found it shattered, each shard piercing his palms as he hit the ground. He sought beauty, whatever that was, and received petals already fallen, the blossom of hope dying within even before learning to walk. [Mixed metaphor!]
He couldn't understand it. Why did this happen? Why couldn't he ever win? Why did other smile as they did when he could only frown in disgust at his own stupidity?
He had learned to look downwards, head to the ground, oblivious to light.
He had learned to close his eyes, bitter against the way life sprung up from below, the way it seemed glad just for its very existence.
And in his self-accepted blindness he could not walk in joy, could not see that he already held the brightness and exhilaration of wonder within his own being.
He knew only his failure and he grew to hate laughter, each laugh a reflection of his own shamefulness.
He tried to build a kingdom. He had put his being into it. And it had been ripped from him. Because he was darkness. He had to be. He came to believe it and as his hatred turned ...
And there the few minutes were up. It's not great. But it's something. And as the start of the building of a character perhaps there is something there I can work with and continue to write. I'm sure he would reveal his story to me as we wrote it together.
But this post isn't meant to be about the devil and all his works. It's not meant to be about lovers and cards and the general unpredictability of things to which we impose a sense of order. This post is meant to be about a photographic challenge.
I asked her "What shall I photograph today?"
He answered "One of those little white scottie dogs."
I grumbled. I am good at grumbling. Because I wasn't feeling too well and thought that staying close to home would be a good thing.
So she said, "Your bed."
That was an acceptable challenge. I could do that one. I haven't. But I could. And of course as soon as she said that I was picturing some much more dull version of Tracy Emin's bed. My bed is not a result of staying in it for a week and only drinking alcohol. And it's been done before now so my bed would not win the Turner Prize and would not be sold for 2.5 million pounds. I wouldn't want my bed in an art gallery anyway. Because I want to sleep in it tonight and because I wouldn't want to be separated from my warthog in that manner.
I sat at home for a while and my brain decided to think about dogs. I knew that the probability of seeing a little white scottie dog would be low if I went out. I haven't seen one in quite a while. Of course, the probability of being dealt the devil and 666 was also low. But at that point I didn't know that such unlikely things were so commonplace.
I sat and thought and came up with a partial solution.
So I asked her, "Can it just be any white dog?"
And she replied, "Okay."
And I said "Then Clare will go out."
The quest was to begin. The hunt for a white dog. Any white dog. I admit right now that I knew exactly what white dog I was going to photograph. But as I type this it's more fun to pretend that I didn't have a clue. At least at times. I left home with a list of dogs. A plan gained by spending a few minutes online. Not just a white dog. But many dogs. I will pretend not to have been in possession of that list.
I caught the metro to central station. The general centrality of the place made it seem like it would be an ideal place to begin my search. And yes, as I walked out of the Metro I saw what was to be the first of many dogs. I will warn you. There will be many dog pictures. Similar dog pictures.
That one is called Snowline and was painted by Jim Edwards. It wasn't long before we had found another dog. The quest was already proving very fruitful. It was true that the dogs weren't properly white and they definitely weren't scottie dogs but it was a good start. This second dog is called Rocket Dog and was painted by Amanda Rabey
We left the station. Blob Thing and Winefride seemed very pleased with the way the day had turned out. They had been expecting to stay at home with me and already they had got to ride on two snow dogs. But as we walked away from the station we couldn't see any more dogs. It was as if they were all hiding. We didn't know what to do so we decided to ask this policeman we met. He might know where we might find another snow dog. He might.
The policeman told us that we had to go further down the hill almost to the river and then we would have to turn left and climb, climb, climb until my big heart and my friends' little hearts were pumping away. I took pity on Blob and Winefride and didn't make them climb up all these stairs by themselves. Blob told me that I shouldn't have come this way and that there was bound to be an easier route to the top of the stairs that didn't involve all this downing and upping. He was right of course, but don't tell him that!
At the top of the stairs we found ourselves in a little area that I might have called a square if it was a square. I spotted a wall and one section of the wall was a little lower. It was possible to look over the edge. I was pleasantly surprised by what I found there.
This is the Metro bridge over the River Tyne from an angle I've never seen it before. I've only ever seen it from below or a side view when standing on another of the bridges. I realised that I was standing directly over the very end of the tunnel the trains pass through as they travel under the centre of Newcastle.
Blob Thing got very excited. He likes bridges and loves to have his picture taken with them. And he was even more excited when the picture of him included a train. He is quite thrilled to have had this experience.
We crossed the square and walked through a door into a building which I had no business entering. It had been such fun entering buildings the previous day that I decided to enter this one. In any case I could see from the outside that there was a really fabulous light fitting and I wanted to go and see it.
Inside we found this. That's twice in two days I entered a building and found a car on display inside. Is this some kind of fashion among the building owners of Newcastle?
This is, as you may know if you're a vintage car expert, a 1934 Morgan F4. The sign said that the management of the Crowne Plaza - for that is where I was - had left it there for my pleasure. I thought it was very kind of them to do such a thing for me but must admit I was a little puzzled that they knew I was coming when I hadn't known I was coming until I saw the lights from outside. But the sign said "We are delighted to present this 1934 Morgan F4 for your pleasure." My pleasure indeed. I still wonder how they knew? Maybe they are very skilled with their tarot cards.
Before leaving the Crowne Plaza I took another look at the lights far above me. It was a fabulous entrance hall and walking through the door had enriched my life.
As we left the Plaza we encountered the dog that the policeman had tried to tell us about. It was a really lovely dog.
This dog is called Fear of Emptiness and it was painted by Louise Bradley.
Blob Thing was extremely brave and climbed up onto the ear of Fear of Emptiness.
We had found a dog. A mainly white dog. But that wasn't good enough for my mind. I wanted to find a pure white dog. And that's a challenge when you're touring the local painted snow dogs. The snow dogs are a campaign run by Saint Oswald's Hospice. There are various ways in which they are being used to raise money for the hospice. And it won't be long before they leave our streets and they all get auctioned. Well, almost all of them. There is one outside the main shopping centre in Sunderland that isn't there any more. I don't know if it got too damaged so was removed. Or if it got stolen. But it isn't there so don't go hunting for it.
As for me, my challenge was not yet over. I still needed to find my white dog. And maybe, although I didn't have much hope of this, find my white scottie dog.